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Tents pictured on Mount Street in Dublin city centre this week Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
THE MORNING LEAD

Palestinian man who slept on Mount Street came to Ireland to escape 'death at any moment'

Mohamed has been deeply affected by the situation in Gaza, describing it as a “massacre”.

AN ASYLUM SEEKER who was sleeping in the camp on Mount Street in Dublin city centre said he came to Ireland in the hopes of starting a better life.

Mohamed, a Palestinian man in his early 20s, has been in Ireland for just over two weeks.

He slept at the makeshift camp on Mount Street, near the Government’s International Protection Office, in Dublin city centre for a few nights.

He was not there last Saturday when over 100 men were bussed from the city to other tents in the Dublin Mountains. However, he arrived shortly afterwards and managed to save some people’s belongings before the camp was dismantled.

Mohamed spent most of his life in Jerusalem with his parents and siblings, but decided to leave amid ongoing violence and threats.

He thought about leaving for some time, but said it was a difficult decision to make. Most of his family remain in Jerusalem and do not want to emigrate.

“They would rather die than leave their country, especially my father and mother,” Mohamed told The Journal.

He has been deeply affected by the situation in Gaza, describing it as a “massacre”.

“I have a lot of friends there. I communicate with them constantly to make sure they are okay, thank God they are fine so far. They are from multiple areas of Gaza, but now because of the war they are all in Rafah.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week reiterated that he plans to carry out a ground invasion of Rafah, where more than one million displaced Palestinians are sheltering, despite mounting international pressure against it.

Around 32,000 people have been killed to date in Gaza in the Israeli offensive launched after the Hamas attack on 7 October.

‘Escaping fear and death’

The violence in Gaza was not the main reason Mohamed left the region, he had been thinking of emigrating for a long time.

His home was raided several times “for no logical reason” and he and his brothers were arrested on a number of occasions. One of his brothers and his cousin were killed in 2020, he told us. 

“I left because of the continuous raids, psychological pressure and constant fear of settlers. I also left because we are pressured to hand over our land.

I left Jerusalem to escape from fear, anxiety and the possibility of death at any moment.

Mohamed studied engineering but struggled to get a job in this field, instead working in restaurants and teaching karate. He saved money for several months and sold his car so he could come to Ireland.

The only way out for him was via a smuggler. He paid this man $4,000 (about €3,700), as well as paying for plane tickets, transport, accommodation and food along the way.

“The total amount I paid until I arrived in Ireland was $7,500 (about €6,900),” he said.

“It took me 23 days from the time I left Palestine until I arrived here,” Mohamed said, noting that he passed through several countries including Jordan, Turkey and the UK.

Ireland’s relationship with Palestine

Mohamed said he could have gone elsewhere but was determined to come to Ireland, a long-standing supporter of Palestine.

“I could have applied for asylum in any other country, but since I was in Palestine I have not seen any country or people that supported the Palestinian cause like the Irish people did.

I chose Ireland because I had been hearing about the Irish people’s support for the Palestinian cause and their support for liberation.

Mohamed said his time in Ireland has been “beautiful and difficult at the same time”. Despite initially sleeping on the streets, he has met many kind people and someone has offered him a bed in their home for the next two weeks.

“I have met many good people who helped me as much as they could, and I found that Irish people love and support Palestinians.”

Mount Street 

Like many asylum seekers who arrived in Ireland in recent weeks, Mohamed was unable to get accommodation amid the State’s struggle to house people. 

He slept at the camp on Mount Street for a few nights before leaving because it was “a sanitary hazard”. There were no toilet facilities at the site and illnesses like scabies started to spread.

“I think diseases began to spread, so I could not stay and moved from there,” he explained. After leaving Mount Street he slept rough at other locations in the city, mainly on park benches.

Some of the men who were bussed to the new camp in Crooksling last Saturday chose to come back to the city to be closer to amenities and have more shelter. 

Outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman both denied that the men were moved so they wouldn’t be in the city during the St Patrick’s Day festivities last weekend.

They said the men were moved to Crooksling as the facility has toilets and running water. 

On Saturday someone texted Mohamed telling come back to Mount Street as the men were being sent to new accommodation. At this point, many of them thought it would be somewhere indoors, rather than more tents. 

By the time Mohamed got there, the buses had left and the camp was being dismantled. He was “shocked” to see the tents being slashed and piled up.

A number of men were gone for breakfast, or to pray in the mosque for Ramadan, when the buses arrived and when they came back some of their tents and belongings were gone.

“I tried as much as I could to remove the refugees’ bags from the tents before they were destroyed,” Mohamed said. 

He and a number of volunteers managed to save some of the belongings. 

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